The first thing to sort out is the name of these lovely plants, often called geraniums, they are in fact Pelargoniums, though they are all part of the same family.
Geraniums are hardy perennial garden plants, whilst pelargoniums, mostly originating from South Africa, are more tender and won’t usually survive the winter outside in the U.K.
There are lots of different types, the main groups are Ivy-leaved, Regal, Zonal and Scented leaved.
Ivy leaved trail beautiful and are perfect for window boxes, I’m not a fan of Zonal types, with their big blotchy leaves. Regal are a favourite, they’re big and fluffy and come in a great colour range
There are some nice bi-coloured ones
By complete contrast the scented leaved ones have small elegant flowers.
Not only is Attar of Roses is very pretty, the leaves can be used as a flavouring for jams and sugar for baking.
How to grow Pelargonium:
Now that the risk of frost is mostly over in the U.K., they can be planted outside in containers, I use a mix of multi-purpose compost and loam based compost, like John Innes.
- Most Pelargonium are happy in sun, though the scented ones need shade for some of the day.
- Water them sparingly, they won’t do well in soggy soil.
- Pick off the dead flowers and add a weekly dose of tomato fertiliser to encourage more flowers.
- Store them inside before the frost arrives in autumn, a cold greenhouse or near the window in a shed works well. Cut them back so they’re about 6in/15cm tall, and they’ll need a little drink of water occasionally just to keep them ticking over.
- Pot them up in fresh compost ready to go outside next year when there’s no more frost.
There’s a lovely display of Pelargonium at Wisley right now.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson